Vacillating over summer vacations
June 01, 2012
As the month of June is fast approaching, students, teachers and parents are facing severe problems and unrest due to the confusion over summer vacations. The government, particularly of Sindh, has not been able to make up its mind whether to announce two months summer vacations from June or July.
On May 18th the provincial government belatedly announced the rescheduling of summer vacations to July-August from June-July. The announcement negated the minutes of the Sindh education department’s steering committee which met in the second week of February this year wherein the chairmen of educational boards, education department’s officers and the representatives from private schools and other institutions decided to start summer vacation from June 1 for two months.
At that time the Sindh education department’s steering committee, which met under the chairmanship of Senior Education Minister Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq, was not aware that this year the holy month of Ramadan would begin in July-August. Nor was the steering committee aware of the altercation in the monsoon pattern. Since the last two years the province has been receiving heavy monsoon rains in August.
These two events dawned on Pir Sahib a few weeks ago and the decision about summer vacations in Sindh was changed from June-July to July-August. Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq defended his decision saying, “Flooding during the last two monsoon seasons had wreaked havoc on the education system, as the provincial government had been forced to turn schools into temporary shelters” and academic session began in September.
Doubts still remain as our ministers and leaders are not renowned for their firm stance on any issue. As easy as it is for them to indulge in horse-trading, it is equally easy for them to backtrack on their statements. To the relief of parents and students as well as teachers, the doubts turned into reality when late on Monday evening it was announced that summer holidays would be from June to July. The very next evening the decision was again reverted!
Uncertainty still prevails as no official notification has been issued regarding the start of summer vacations. Now the tussle is between private schools that follow the matriculation system and those which follow the Cambridge international examinations system. Regardless of what the provincial government says, the latter will observe their summer holidays from June 1 as they had already uploaded their school calendars and notified the parents accordingly.
The English academic year runs from September to July. Schools are open for 195 days each school year. The school year is 39 weeks long and is divided into six terms:
• Term 1- September to October (followed by a one week holiday)
• Term 2- October to December (followed by a two week holiday)
• Term 3- January to February (followed by a one week holiday)
• Term 4- February to March (followed by a two week holiday)
• Term 5- April to May (followed by a one week holiday)
• Term 6- June to July (followed by a six week summer holiday)
Such a system would be impossible in Pakistan as there is no single education policy for the whole country. There are as many education policies and academic calendars as there are educational boards for every district in the country.
In neighboring India, cultural, ethnic and religious diversity is much more than it is in Pakistan. Yet both the private and public sector educational institutes follow a standard timetable for vacations even though summer vacations vary according to geographical locations. In northern India, school ends on May 1 and begins on July 1, while in southern India, school ends in the last week of March and begins in June. Some schools hold extra classes for 10th grade from May till June for students of classes preparing for Board exams.
In Bangladesh, summer vacation begins in mid-May and ends in mid June (4 weeks). According to Bengali calendar, summer vacation is related to availability of different kinds of summer fruits in the month of Joishtho (mid May to mid June). Also it’s become very uncomfortable for children to stay in class during extreme warm-humid weather.
In Oman, summer vacation starts in late May and ends in early September (3 months). In the Philippines, summer holidays for kindergarten, elementary, and high schools typically start on the third week of March and end in the first to third week of June. This coincides with the country's tropical "summer" (dry season) months from March to May. School year begins in the second week of June, the start of Philippines' wet season.
It would be unfair to change the summer vacations schedule now. Many families have already planned their summer holidays from June which will extend till August. Many people spend their vacation upcountry and abroad and it would be unfair to ask these families to postpone their holiday schedule while the government decides on a final date. Many families have already made reservations and obtained visas for travel abroad. Others have weddings to attend or host for their children and the dates cannot be altercated at the last moment.
In Pakistan, where everything is viewed in short-term and immediate goals, there will always be vacillation over summer vacations. Even with the abolition of the Federal Ministry of Education and devolution to the provinces following the 18th Amendment, there has not been much improvement in the education sector, especially in curriculum and holidays schedule across the provinces.
Education is the foundation upon which great societies are built. The Muslims were able to conquer and rule the world because they were educated. Lack of interest in education led to their downfall. Today we can again regain our lost prestige. We just need to set our educational priorities straight.
The founding fathers of Pakistan realized early that the future of this nation depended on a productive pursuit of knowledge through education. In his message to the first Education Conference in November 1947, Quaid-i-Azam said: “If we are to make real, speedy and substantial progress, we must bring our educational policy and programme on the lines suited to the genius of our people, consonant with our history and culture and having regard to the modern conditions and vast developments that have taken place all over the world. The future of our State will and must accordingly depend upon the type of education we give to our children, and the way in which we bring them up as future citizens of Pakistan. We should try, by sound education, to instill into them the high sense of honour, integrity, responsibility and selfless service to the nation. There is an immediate and urgent need for giving scientific and technical education to our people in order to build up our future economic life and to see that our people take to science, commerce, trade and particularly well-planned industries. We should not forget that we have to compete with the world which is moving very fast in this direction.”
Apart from the common denominator of Islam and national cohesion, the statements of vision and purpose for the national education system in Pakistan have tended to reflect the dominant political paradigm and compulsions of the day. Impliedly, most of these noble assertions remained rhetoric, now confined to the dustbins of history.